Single Chinese woman demands 'fertility rights'

Because egg-freezing treatment in China is reserved only for married women who cannot have children, it has sparked a debate over reproductive rights for women, especially those who are not married.

Reuters reported that Teresa Xu, a Chinese woman, had lodged a lawsuit against the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in 2019 for denying her egg-freezing treatment because she was unmarried. Now, the case that she lodged several years ago has raised questions about women’s reproductive rights in the Asian country.

Under the current rules, single women are generally not allowed to freeze their eggs, and the report noted that assisted reproductive technologies are only made available to women who are married that have experienced fertility irregularities.

However, the Associated Press noted that there is no Chinese law that specifically bars unmarried people from such services as fertility treatments. The law merely mentions that a “husband and wife” may have up to three children. But institutions around the country, such as hospitals, have implemented regulations that essentially require people to present their marriage license when they attempt to receive these services.

It appears that the general consensus on this issue has been challenged by government political advisers, who have suggested combatting the population drop in the country by allowing single and unmarried women the ability to freeze their eggs, in the hopes of producing children at a later time in their life. The country’s population has been sinking recently, with projections estimating that China will have less than 800 million people by 2100, though these figures are subject to change, according to a report from the Brookings Institute.

Xu appeared before a Beijing court to make her case on the year-long battle, saying: "The time, geographical and social conditions are right - all that's lacking is a favourable policy opening."

"The technology is not difficult, market demand is strong, and there is an enormous cost difference between going abroad to freeze your eggs and doing it domestically." She went on to say that the cost of having these procedures carried out overseas is often five to ten times more expensive than the fee generally charged by Chinese clinics, ranging from $2,886 to $4,330, per the report.

There are even Chinese provinces that have worked to provide childbirth benefits to unmarried women, such as the southwestern province of Sichuan, where single women are permitted to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in private clinics. However, it is unclear if Beijing will clamp down on this emerging development.

Image: Title: xu